For the last 14 months, I have been preaching through John’s Gospel verse by verse at Mercy Baptist Church in our little village of Kaya. Today’s text was John 6:22-29.
22 On the next day the crowd that remained on the other side of the sea saw that there had been only one boat there, and that Jesus had not entered the boat with his disciples, but that his disciples had gone away alone. 23 Other boats from Tiberias came near the place where they had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks. 24 So when the crowd saw that Jesus was not there, nor his disciples, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum, seeking Jesus. 25 When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” 26 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. 27 Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.” 28 Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”
As is usually the case, there is more in the text that could be said than I have time to say. Especially when a sermon is being preached in two languages, it can easily go long. We have a feeding program for the benefit of the kids in our village after service every Sunday, so I try not to run more than 15-20 minutes over.
Today I wished I had more time to expound on a point. In this passage, we are told about a crowd that went looking for Jesus. The day before, he had miraculously multiplied fish and bread and fed 5,000 men along with many women and children who would also have been there. An incredible miracle for sure! And in verses 22-25 we see the crowd suspected something else miraculous had taken place. But as we see in the answer Jesus gives them in verse 26, they missed the point of His miracles. All materialistic notions miss the point. They longed for what Jesus could give them and not Jesus Himself.
Many of the beautiful people of Kenya are faced with extreme poverty. This is a problem we often hear about from afar in the US, but very few see first-hand. In the US there are many government programs to assist those who are poor. I have worked with homeless in Dallas. Poverty in Kenya looks much different. There is very little structure to support the poor here. We know a single mother living near us who is raising four children. She could not send them to school because she couldn’t even manage to pay the $10/year or so for their fees and uniforms. They live in a one-room shack with mud walls and a dirt floor and had no furniture. The mother would leave the children all day and even late into the evenings looking for odd-jobs, mostly digging weeds from farmers’ fields for $1-3 per day. Her 9 year-old daughter had to look after her 3 younger siblings all day every day, including the youngest, a baby not even yet 1 year old. There are no government programs helping her. No safety-net keeping things from getting really bad. We come across stories like hers nearly every day. Kenya is ranked 8th in the world for number of people living in extreme poverty. You would think that such a people would yearn to hear of food that lasts. You would think that Kenya would be a nation burning to know the Bread of Life.
Yet sadly, in Kenya, just like in the US and many other places around the world, the Church is faced with a big problem. There are many who “believe” in Jesus, but only because of the material “blessings” they think he will give them. They are not born again, as Jesus told Nicodemus in an earlier chapter must happen in order to enter the kingdom of God. They are religious, but they are not children of God. Jesus warns us about such in Matthew 7:21-23:
21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
Here Jesus describes, not people who are espousing atheist philosophy and beliefs, or people who are living obvious carnal lives, rather He is describing those who are in our churches and think they are saved from the wrath to come. Yet Jesus warns that He doesn’t know them.
So how can you know? Can anyone have assurance of their salvation? Yes, absolutely! God does not leave His children doubting, for “the one who doubts is like the wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.” (James 1:6) For instance, the book of 1 John was written primarily so that Christians might have assurance. Throughout his letter, John contrasts those who walk in darkness with those who walk in light, those who say they have no sin with those who confess their sins, those who do not keep God’s commands with those who do. Later he contrasts those who hate their brother with those who love him, those who love the world with those who do not, those who practice sin with those who practice righteousness, those who love with those who do not. Finally, he contrasts those who believe God and those who do not believe, those who have the Son and those who do not.
Which brings me to my main point. Those who believe God and have the Son long for Him. We all long for something. We long for money, or material things like a nice house or car, or we long for relationships like the perfect husband or wife. When we long for such things, we tend to seek Jesus because we believe he is the way to get what we long for. And when we get a taste of what we long for, we can be like the crowd, seeking Jesus because he filled their carnal bellies with the fish and loaves, not because they saw that His miracles confirmed what the prophets said about Him throughout the Old Testament Scriptures. The Bible is clear, there are false converts in our churches. There are those who think they are born again when in fact Jesus does not know them and will righteously condemn them to hell. If we seek Jesus because we long for material things that he can give us, we may be one of those false converts. If we seek to obey his commands and practice religion because we want to earn His favor so that He gives us material blessings, we may in fact be among those that Jesus warns about in the passage from Matthew 7 above. I think there is an important question we should ask ourselves. Are we seeking Jesus because we long for what He can give us, or because we long for Him? The answer to this question can give us an indication as to whether we have the Son or not.
So what does it look like to long for God? The Bible has a lot to say about this. Ask yourself if these things describe you or not:
My soul is consumed with longing for your rules at all times. (Psalm 119:20)
My soul yearns for you in the night; my spirit within me earnestly seeks you. For when your judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness. (Isaiah 26:9)
Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. (Psalm 73:25)
My soul longs for your salvation; I hope in your word. (Psalm 119:81)
I open my mouth and pant, because I long for your commandments. (Psalm 119:131)
I stretch out my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land. (Psalm 143:6)
My prayer is that you come to experience that longing for God is satisfied through Jesus Christ:
13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:13, 14)
Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. (Isaiah 55:1)
This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” (John 6:50-51)
On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. (John 7:37)
.And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. (Revelation 21:6)
The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price. (Revelation 22:17)
And that is exactly what He wanted the crowd seeking Him for the wrong reasons to understand:
Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. (John 6:27)